This is not a post about Mary...
...or Marina for that matter. It isn't about a personality - and it isn't really about World Youth Day either.
But it would be very remiss of the Catholic Church in Australia if it didn't do a bit of soul searching in reaction to the the news that "Mary"/Marina Dickson has decided that for the sake of her relationship with God she has to leave the Catholic Church and join the pentecostal Sydney mega-church Hillsong:
Last week, Ms Dickson, of Pennant Hills, told The Sun-Herald: "I have only good things to say about the Catholic Church but I have this hunger for God. I wanted to learn more about the Bible and have a deeper relationship with God."Let's get two things out of the way first, so we can concentrate on the really important thing:
1) World Youth Day certainly gave young Catholics a taste of what a vibrant, personal relationship with Jesus could be
2) WYD exposed Catholic young people to the experience of the spiritual "high" that can result from being together with other joyful believers committed to their faith and celebrating it with upbeat and soul-touching music (much of it provided by Hillsong)
Right. Now the important thing. Ms Dickson specifically mentions that she "wanted to learn more about the Bible and have a deeper relationship with God." And you know what? That is a very, very healthy desire for any Christian, Catholic, Pentecostal or otherwise.
And you know what else? We Australian Catholics don't do that well. At all.
I've told you about the time I began a lecture series called "A Walk through the Scriptures", and of the 15 or so Catholics who turned up, not one of them brought a copy of the bible.
The opportunities for everyday Catholics to learn and know about the Scriptures are simply far, far too few. Very few Catholic parishes have regular bible study groups. Most preaching does not "open the Word" for Catholics, that is, it doesn't send them back to the Scriptures to study them for themselves. It is as if the dots between in-depth bible study and growth in personal spiritual life have simply not been connected by our pastors and pastoral assistants.
And on top of that, many Catholic communities in Australia actually seem scared that too much bible study might actually promote a kind of "evangelicalism" in the Church.
The fact that Ms Dickson felt that she had to go to Hillsong in order to "learn more about the Bible and have a deeper relationship with God" is an indictment upon Australian Catholicism. May the Lord give us ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.